Defensive matchups are important in fantasy football, but it’s important to remember that offenses control outcomes more than defenses do. And when an offense is out of sync, sometimes the matchups — no matter how cushy — hardly matter.
Consider the Kansas City Chiefs offense, which has been grounded for two weeks.
Week 11’s draw of the Giants looked like a cherry spot — Andy Reid off a bye week, ready to cut up the quitting, quarreling New York defense. The game quickly went off script; KC was flat for three hours en route to a 12-9, overtime loss.
Ah, but surely Buffalo would fix things in Week 12. The Bills had allowed 101 points in their previous two games, getting embarrassed by the Saints and Chargers. This had “get-well spot” written all over it.
Apparently the Chiefs never got the memo, because they stunk all through Sunday’s 16-10 loss to Buffalo. The KC offense played like 11 guys who met for the first time right before kickoff.
Remember when Alex Smith was an MVP candidate — heck, frontrunner — earlier this season? That was adorable. Smith posted pedestrian 23-36-199 line against Buffalo, with a touchdown and a pick. He took a couple of sacks, signed for a 76.0 rating. A resourceful 35 rushing yards helped, but this good down as an under-par score. Smith averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt.
The Chiefs insist they have no designs on benching Smith, even with first-round pick Patrick Mahomes percolating on the bench. But you have to wonder what the breaking point could be. What if Kansas City can’t rebound against the Jets or the Raiders in the next two weeks?
Kareem Hunt is one of the conundrums of the fantasy season. He rambled for 538 total yards and six touchdowns in his first three games, looking like the right answer for 2017. But he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3, and in recent weeks, he’s had trouble producing anything, or even staying on the field.
Hunt was stonewalled by a shockingly-resurgent Bills rushing defense Sunday — 11 carries, 17 yards. Hunt was targeted just once in the passing game, and when the Chiefs shifted to hurry-up mode, Charcandrick West picked up the bulk of the snaps. You’d like to say Hunt will get the positive regression going with the cushy schedule to come, but that’s what we thought would happen these past two games.
It might seem unfair to label Tyreek Hill as a boom or bust player — that’s most of the receivers in the league these days, and heck, it’s the name of this column. But if the cleat fits, wear it. Hill didn’t do much with his 11 targets — seven uneventful catches for 41 yards. Still, with the Jets and Raiders beckoning, how can you bench him?
• Touchdowns are the ultimate fantasy deodorant, and the touchdown saved what was otherwise another mediocre day for Zay Jones (3-30-1, 10 targets). He’s got a long way to go. If the Bills get Kelvin Benjamin back for Week 13, I will probably not have Jones ranked anywhere near the starting cut line.
• So much for the idea of Cameron Brate and Ryan Fitzpatrick bonding over Good Will Hunting, or something like that. Brate has a whopping four catches — one per Sunday — over the last month. Check, please.
• It’s a little surprising the Falcons took this long to unlock a Mohamed Sanu pass — he’s now 6-for-6 for his career, with three touchdowns and a perfect rating. He didn’t attempt a single pass in 2015 and 2016. I also might have kept this a little under wraps, waiting for a higher-leverage spot — consider how the Patriots kept the Julian Edelman double-pass play in storage until a critical spot arose against Baltimore in January, 2015.
• The Philly backs all have different skill sets, but it will be interesting to see if Corey Clement’s role increases after LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi both put the ball on the ground Sunday. Carson Wentz’s timely running is a sneaky added bonus to the Eagles offense, and he usually gets that yardage without taking unnecessary risks.
• Maybe the interception couldn’t be stopped, but DeVante Parker made no attempt to contest an underthrown fade pass. Recognize and compete. Parker only drew three targets on the day; two were intercepted. He obviously has physical talents, but guys all over the league are talented. Does Parker want to maximize his ability?
• I’m not a major believer in player-versus-team history because rosters change too quickly and don’t meet up often enough for it to matter. But when teams are in-division rivals, I’m at least willing to consider the history card. The Bengals seemed to be a good punch in Week 12 because of their emphatic recent history over the Browns — in their wins, the average margin was over 22 points.
• DeShone Kizer leaves plays on the field every week, but the loss to Cincinnati was unquestionably the best I’ve seen him look. And Cleveland doesn’t lack for passing options — Corey Coleman is already a reasonable prospect, Duke Johnson is a strong receiver, David Njoku has flashed at times this year, and perhaps Josh Gordon is on the comeback trail.
Of course, I’m probably going to be one of the least-optimistic rankers of Gordon for the remainder of the year, at least until he shows something on the field. Football is hard. Timing and rapport take a while to build. At least Gordon isn’t coming back from a major injury this time around, but there are obstacles. And it’s not like he’s hitching up to a stable quarterback situation.
• In a similar vein, I was surprised at how many Greg Olsen questions I fielded Sunday morning. I might be Olsen’s biggest fan — I see him as a likely Hall of Fame, and a terrific announcing candidate if and when he wants to make the transition. But 10 weeks off is 10 weeks off. I am constantly shocked at how injury optimism consistently leads good fantasy owners to make unrealistic, hopeful, -EV decisions. Me, I’m all about the show-me week, the prove-it game.